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Matt, Home Buyer in Australia

Is it true that the trend for bigger and bigger houses (Mc Mansions) is changing & houses are getting smaller?

Asked by Matt, Australia Thu Aug 2, 2007

I read that this was happening at the high end of the market and it was expected to flow through to the mainstream.

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An interesting question and the answers you get will be dictated by the local market. In lower/middle Westchester there is a schizophrenic disconnect taking place:
For builders - McMansions RULE
For buyers - The trend is cooling. Many may WANT McMansion size, but they don't want to pay for it. Also, for those with the $$$ prewar charmers (even though they might be under 4000 sq.ft.) and brand new construction rule. McMansions that are not brand new or have anything remotely dated about them - are not really moving.

The forces driving these trends are many....The old-fashioned graceful charmers have always been fashionable around here. They are timeless and have a style that is impossible to duplicate today. A pre-war tudor or colonial in good condition still sells at the drop of a hat if it is priced well.

A 10-20 year old McMansion doesn't have charm, it doesn't have style, it just looks DATED. People who go for the McMansion style want today's finishes. They want the tumbled marble in the baths and the granite in the kitchen with super-ornate cabinets to match. Those who are thinking of selling their McMansions really need to keep them up-to-date with the latest finishes in order to make them desirable to today's McMansion market. The fact that older McMansions tend to "sit" supports my concern about buying new construction as an investment - you pay a premium for a "new look" that is ever changing and within five years, you are competing with other shiny new homes and still have to spend for upgrades even though you paid a premium for them just a few years ago.

Nevertheless, builders are still grabbing up tired tract homes of the 70s and doing the "McMansion conversion" gutting them and adding 2000 - 4000 sq. ft. . Supersizing marches relentlessly onward. Oversized homes on postage-stamp lots are stil popping up all over the place. So strong is this trend that I nearly dropped my teeth when someone bought such a "fixer" gutted it but didn't expand it! I was SHOCKED! What's wrong with these people??? They didn't want a monstrosity!!!

All this expansion occurs in spite of the fact that the demand for more "modest" homes is enormous. A smaller home - from 1500-3000 sq.ft. that is in top notch shape flies off the shelf faster than a blinking eye. This dichotomy is the result of land prices that are through the roof. In White Plains an undeveloped acre of land still sells for more than $1million an acre and builders need to maximize their investment. Hence, the supersizing continues in spite of cooling demand. However, a recent article in the White Plains Times indicates that the city may be taking action because the public is sick of seeing these behmouths blocking the sun in their back yards and sticking out like sore thumbs. We also have a run-off problem as NY can be quite wet. Paving over everything is causing flooding so more restrictions will be coming. City officials indicated that they used to be able to count on "people's good taste" to moderate size. One official indicated that good taste had gone out the window while garish and greedy had taken over.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Sat Sep 8, 2007
I think we wlll see this a trend for smaller homes in tract and development housing. There are data to support this claim, as evidenced by some of the links. You also have answers from agents who state that they do not experience this in their given markets. Where homes are custom built, one at a time, in more established areas of larger homes, we will continue to see these larger homes built. Where we see a builder or developer plan a community, even of higher end homes, we may start to see the trend of smaller homes. There is truth to the reports, but not in all markets.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Aug 3, 2007
Deborah Madey, Real Estate Pro in Red Bank, NJ
The new home articles Sylvia reference as well as a couple of other related artcles from and the national Association of Home Builders provide some of the following reasons for this trend:

Households are placing more emphasis on better use of space, instead of more space.
As Baby boomers move towards retirement, they are wanting more accessibilty in a home.
Fuel Costs - Smaller homes are typically more efficient

Here are the additional articles to read:

I am sure we will see this trend emerge and evolve even more in the Tampa Bay home market, where we service home buyers and sellers - as well as other areas of the country. Hope these help.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
Planning departments, conservationists, and architects are working to convince the public that a bigger house is not necessarily a better house. Large homes are often not "homey" due to their lack of relationship to the human proportion. It's also a great waste of our limited resources. Utilizing spaces in a smarter way and not having vast caverns can produce smaller, yet more usable rooms in a house.
Some of this was spearheaded by architect Sarah Susanka, AIA and her book, The Not So Big House.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
Jennifer Kre…, Home Seller in 95124
it all depends on the value of the lot. In west Pasadena gentrification has folks turning tiny 20's bungalows into Mcmansions.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri Sep 7, 2007
I think it depends on what stage they are with growing families or downsizing. I can say that many of these families no matter which way they are going are looking for more efficient homes.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Wed Aug 15, 2007
Pam Winterba…, Real Estate Pro in San Ramon, CA
I find that my buyers/clients are interested in a "greener" home, which also translates to smaller with a more efficient use of space. (Homes with larger lawns seems to be a trend, too...)
Web Reference:
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
Cindi Hagley, Real Estate Pro in San Ramon, CA
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
Sylvia Barry,…, Real Estate Pro in Novato, CA
I have heard this as well, I live in a post Katrina area. We have a lot of new construction, and we are still doing McMansions. It will be interesting to see if we have any changes in the next year!
Web Reference:
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
Yes. Many area have passed ordinances that limit the size of the building compared to the size of the lot. Los Angeles has recently passed such an ordinance as has Manhattan Beach. As for what buyers want, I do believe the trend in the higher end market is not for mega mansions but for cozier space (as long as it's not TOO cozy.)
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
I've heard this rattling around as well, I just don't remember where I heard it... I've still not seen any evidence of it yet, but new construction is very slow at the moment... Anyone out there in an active new housing market? Comments?
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
Not on the Westside of Los Angeles.In Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby Hills and outlying areas buyers sediments scaling smaller for about a minute and now it is back to Buyers wanting the most home they can find.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Sep 14, 2010
High Matt,

I think that you can't really consider the McMansions and high-end properties together. While there's a lot of agitating in communities across the California to actively legislate against 'McMansions,' I think that the rich wil continue to be able to do what they want (within reason) to their properties.

For up-to-date information about what's actually for sale in these communities, my website has all the listings for estate properties and luxury homes currently available in the L.A. Basin and beach cities. It also list most of the other properties for sale from Downtown to the Westside.

Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or would like full Sales Comp Reports for any properties that you're interested in. Best of Luck.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Feb 25, 2010
I completely agree that it depends on the neighborhoods.

(I can tell only about my neighborhood)
Beverly Hills, CA( !!:) Average Sq. Ft.of a house=4,500-5,000, and Average lot size=15,000 sq.ft.- (I just run market analysis: what is there for sale for last 6m)
The tendency is opposite here: new houses must have huge walk in closets, big kitchen and bath rooms.
Every my client, regardless price, asks about these+ high ceilings, big windows+ pool or place for one.

If it is downsizing: they just move from house to condo.

So, nope, new constructions( houses that they r building right now in BH and BHPO) r huuuuuuge.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Nov 4, 2009
In depends where you are. Here in Laguna Beach even the local authorities are trying to cut down on the McMansions. All in all though I think in this economy people are looking to downsize both for monetary reasons and also comfort. Have you ever heard of the "cocooning effect". Faith Popcorn talked about it in her book when she said that people are looking to feel safe and protect themselves from what is perceived as a hostile environment.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 10, 2008
Not in Orange County. California
Click here for all homes in the OC
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Sep 10, 2008
I don't think so..But the Lot sizes are getting smaller, while the homes are bigger. Hardly any yard, but some buyers don't seem to mind.
Web Reference: http://www.doreneslavitz
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Jul 28, 2008
THis really depends on where you want to live. In the Beach citites that has always been true but in Palos Verdes where I live and work, the bigger the better currently. You need to be more specific about where you want to live to get an accurate answer.

0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
I think that depends on the neighborhoods. In my marketing area in NJ, they are still building very large homes. I sell in an exclusive area though where bigger is better! if you know what I mean.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 2, 2007
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